Much business research involves looking for company information. A quick search engine query will point users (most of the time) toward a company’s home page and, if a publicly traded company, to its annual report and other financial documents (see more under investment and finance resources, below). Finding information beyond a website for small or privately held or subsidiary companies can be challenging. In addition to the multidisciplinary and article databases already noted, the following resources will help researchers seeking company information.
Whether a company is publicly traded or private, if it is a parent or a subsidiary, or if it is defunct and/or merged are important clues to discover. A directory database can provide the bare-bones insight into a company’s ownership or its competitors and peers, and often is needed if a query requires any kind of search-filter screening (e.g., companies that meet certain criteria such as number of employees, industry, sales, or geography) or export functionality. OneSource Global Business Browser was described earlier but should also be noted here because of its superior screening and exporting capabilities. The Orbis database from Bureau van Dijk is another powerful screening tool for locating financial data, information on executives and shareholders, and subsidiaries for public and private companies all over the world and for larger public companies.
ReferenceUSA from Infogroup provides robust screening and cross-search capabilities (using a number to look up an address or vice versa) for over 44 million public and private US-based businesses. ReferenceUSA also offers U.S. New Businesses, U.S. Consumers/Lifestyles, U.S. Jobs/Internships, a relatively new U.S. Historical Businesses database, and other components. AtoZdatabases from Database USA features content similar to the ReferenceUSA resource (AtoZdatabases was created by Infogroup’s founder). It screens across and exports lists of businesses and executives, or new jobs and homeowners, among other content.
Hoover’s, now owned by Dun & Bradstreet, covers both public and private companies and is searchable by company name, ticker symbol, executive name, and industry keyword, to name a few points of entry. Over time, the free version of the Hoovers.com site has offered less in terms of in-depth company profiles and competitor information, but it remains a useful tool to get oriented quickly to the important details of a company. Because it includes public and private companies, defunct entities, and family-tree relationships, and because it offers the ability to search across the content in so many ways, Hoover’s is an excellent starting point for company research. Libraries subscribing to LexisNexis Academic may already have access to Hoover’s content, so check to avoid duplication.
Another standard company-directory resource is the Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Database, now known also as Mergent’s MDDI. Covering 34 million public and private companies as well as subsidiaries, it can be screened by various combinations of criteria, including geographic location, industry, sales, and number of employees. Separate subscriptions are available for North American and international company coverage.
Mergent Intellect is yet another resource that builds upon the content contained within Hoover’s and offers basic directory information on 245 million private companies, with additional screening and exporting capabilities. For private company coverage, users may also try Ward’s Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies. This directory is available as a stand-alone database as well as through licenses to Gale Directory Library or the aforementioned Business Insights: Global.
The LexisNexis Corporate Affiliations database (colloquially known as “Who Owns Whom”) provides information on corporate hierarchies and subsidiary relationships, board membership, and executive compensation data. Major public companies and larger private companies are covered; a Historical Search edition supports searching back to the early 1990s.
Often referred to in print form as the “Yellow Books” (and formerly known as The Leadership Library on the Internet), the Leadership Directories cover a number of areas, including government, media, legal, and nonprofit. These online directories include a Companies Premium database, which filters details (like e-mail addresses) on more than 135,000 executives and board members, along with a Nonprofits Premium product. There are also products focusing on the legal, energy, healthcare, and transportation industries.
Many libraries have devoted valuable shelf space over the years to the gigantic green volumes of the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers. Now known as ThomasNet, it is a useful (and freely available) online resource for identifying suppliers and products across multiple categories, including chemicals, services, machinery, and plastics. Searchable by company or brand name, ThomasNet is a unique directory steering users toward companies that manufacture particular products. From wing nuts to squeegees to CAD drawings of the same and then some, ThomasNet is worth a look when trying to track down any kind of industrial product or manufacturer.